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Age group 12 to 17 years

Academic achievement

Academic achievement is one of the central goals of education and, increasingly, a criterion for measuring school and system effectiveness. Academic achievement and improvement, appropriate to each student’s capabilities, is also essential for young people’s lifetime wellbeing.

However, academic achievement is not the only desirable outcome from high school, and students who may not be achieving academically may be excelling in other areas. 

Overview and areas of concern

For young people aged 12 to 17 years, academic progress each year is critical. At the same time, high school should support increasing independence and autonomy, prepare students for further learning and work, encourage connections to community, and support physical and emotional wellbeing.1

Data overview

WA has shown sustained improvements in the proportion of students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in Year 9 numeracy. However, there were declines in Year 7 numeracy and Year 7 and Year 9 reading in 2017.

Year 7 and Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading and numeracy, in per cent, WA, 2008 to 2017

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, compiled from NAPLAN National Reports from 2008 to 2017.

Areas of concern

A large proportion of WA students have only progressed to, at or below minimum levels of literacy or numeracy. In WA, one in three students are at or below the national minimum standard for writing, one in five for reading and one in seven for numeracy. These rates increase for Aboriginal students.

Year 9 students below the national minimum standard in reading, writing and numeracy, in per cent, WA and Australia, 2017

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

Endnotes

  1. Lamb S et al 2015, Educational opportunity in Australia 2015: Who succeeds and who misses out, Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University for the Mitchell Institute.
Measure: Academic achievement

Measuring student achievement helps educators and parents understand how children are faring in their learning. Academic achievement measures are also critical to monitor progress, evaluate policies and programs and inform decision-making.  

Australia’s academic performance has declined since 2000 when compared to other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).1 To improve educational outcomes for children and young people there is a need to reduce the gap between the highest and lowest performing students and enable all students to progress their learning each year.2

Since 2008, all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are tested annually using a common assessment tool under the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). This tool is administered by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

The NAPLAN national minimum standard is ‘the agreed minimum acceptable standard of knowledge and skills without which a student will have difficulty making sufficient progress at school’.3 ACARA notes that students who are performing at the national minimum standard may also require additional assistance to enable them to achieve their potential.4

While NAPLAN minimum standards have limitations (refer the Grattan Institute paper, Widening gaps: What NAPLAN tells us about student progress for a discussion), standardised testing of academic achievement is important to identify needs within the student population and for continuous improvement of the school system more generally.5

Proportion of students achieving at, or above, the NAPLAN minimum standard for reading

From 2008 to 2017, the proportion of Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard for reading increased marginally from 91.8 per cent to 92.7 per cent.

Year 7 and Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading, in per cent, by selected characteristics, WA, 2008 to 2017

Year

All

Male

Female

Aboriginal

LBOTE

Year 7

2008

92.7

91.0

94.5

63.4

90.3

2013

93.8

92.4

95.3

68.2

91.4

2014

94.8

93.6

96.1

71.6

92.5

2015

94.7

93.4

96.1

74.3

93.2

2016

93.8

92.5

95.2

68.9

91.9

2017

92.9

91.2

94.7

64.2

91.8

Year 9

2008

91.8

90.1

93.5

62.8

89.6

2013

92.9

91.4

94.4

65.7

91.0

2014

92.9

91.1

94.8

65.9

91.1

2015

93.2

91.4

95.1

66.9

90.7

2016

94.0

93.2

94.8

69.4

90.8

2017

92.7

91.1

94.3

63.9

91.4

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, compiled from NAPLAN National Reports from 2008 to 2017.

Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading, WA, 2008 to 2017

Source: Compiled from NAPLAN National Reports from 2008 to 2017.

The proportion of Year 9 students with a language background other than English (LBOTE) achieving at or above the national minimum standard for reading in 2017 was slightly below non-LBOTE Year 9 students (91.4% compared to. 92.7%). With regard to gender, a slightly higher proportion of female than male students achieved at or above the minimum standard across all years.

There was a sustained improvement in NAPLAN results in reading for Year 9 Aboriginal students from 2008 to 2016, however this deteriorated in 2017.

This decrease was experienced across Australia, although the decline in WA was more significant.

Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading, in per cent, by Aboriginal status, WA and Australia, 2008 to 2017

WA

Australia

Year

All students

Aboriginal

All students

Aboriginal

2008

91.8

62.8

92.9

70.7

2013

92.9

65.7

93.4

73.9

2014

92.9

65.9

92.1

71.2

2015

93.2

66.9

92.3

71.7

2016

94.0

69.4

92.8

73.6

2017

92.7

63.9

91.7

70.6

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, compiled from NAPLAN National Reports from 2008 to 2017.

Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading, by Aboriginal status, WA and Australia, 2008 to 2017

Source: Compiled from NAPLAN National Reports from 2008 to 2017.

When results are disaggregated by Aboriginal status and remoteness area, it becomes evident that location appears to have little effect on non-Aboriginal students, while for Aboriginal students there is a significant decrease in achievement levels relative to a student’s distance from the metropolitan area (achievement levels are the lowest for Aboriginal students in very remote areas).

Year 7 and Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading, in per cent, by Aboriginal status and remoteness area, WA, 2017

Geolocation

All students

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Year 7

Metro

94.6

75.0

95.4

Inner regional

93.0

72.9

94.3

Outer regional

90.4

71.1

93.9

Remote

83.4

59.5

94.1

Very remote

52.0

31.6

90.8

Year 9

Metro

94.3

72.2

95.2

Inner regional

92.4

71.5

94.3

Outer regional

89.2

66.6

92.7

Remote

82.6

62.2

93.4

Very remote

54.1

36.2

91.9

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

Year 7 and Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading, in per cent, by Aboriginal status and remoteness area, WA, 2017

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

Proportion of students achieving at, or above, the NAPLAN minimum standard for numeracy

For numeracy, the proportion of Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard increased significantly from 92 per cent to 96 per cent between 2008 and 2017. Analysis of NAPLAN data shows that the significant improvement in Year 9 numeracy occurred in 2014 and has been sustained since then.

Year 7 and Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in numeracy, in per cent, by selected characteristics, WA, 2008 to 2017

Year

All

Male

Female

Aboriginal

LBOTE

Year 7

2008

94.7

95.0

94.5

74.2

93.3

2013

95.1

95.0

95.2

74.0

93.9

2014

95.4

95.3

95.5

77.2

94.6

2015

95.6

95.2

96.1

78.7

94.9

2016

95.1

94.6

95.7

73.6

94.4

2017

94.9

94.3

95.4

73.2

94.8

Year 9

2008

92.3

92.5

92.1

66.2

92.2

2013

90.8

91.5

90.1

60.6

89.9

2014

94.7

94.6

94.9

74.2

94.4

2015

96.4

96.3

96.5

81.3

95.5

2016

95.9

95.5

96.2

77.6

94.7

2017

96.4

96.2

96.7

80.4

96.6

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

Specifically for Year 9 students with LBOTE, there was an improvement in the proportion of students achieving at or above the national minimum standard from 2008 to 2017 (92.2% to 96.6%).

The proportion of Aboriginal Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard also increased significantly from 66.2 per cent in 2008 to 80.4 per cent in 2017.

Year 7 and Year 9 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in numeracy, in per cent, by Aboriginal status and remoteness area, WA, 2017

Geolocation

All students

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Year 7

Metropolitan

96.1

81.1

96.8

Inner regional

94.6

76.9

95.7

Outer regional

93.5

79.5

96.3

Remote

88.4

69.7

96.9

Very remote

64.8

49.7

94.4

Year 9

Metropolitan

97.2

85.7

97.7

Inner regional

96.6

86.4

97.5

Outer regional

94.9

80.5

97.3

Remote

92.0

80.1

98.1

Very remote

74.6

62.6

98.2

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

Numeracy achievement levels however decline for both Year 7 and Year 9 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students relative to students’ distance from the metropolitan area. The more remote a student’s place of residence is the less likely they are to achieve at or above the national minimum standard. This trend is evident for all achievement domains however most pronounced for writing.

There are multiple factors that influence students’ achievement levels. These include socio-economic status, parental expectations, parents’ education levels, school advantage and regional differences. For example, it has been found that bright students in disadvantaged schools make significantly less progress than similarly capable students in high advantaged schools.6 Other research has found that children living in the most advantaged areas will on average achieve more than double the score in national proficiency tests in reading, writing and numeracy than those living in the most disadvantaged areas.7

The proportion of WA Aboriginal students not achieving the national minimum standard is significantly higher than the national results. Thirty six per cent of WA Aboriginal Year 9 students are achieving below the national minimum standard in reading (compared to 29.5% nationally), and 57.0 per cent of WA Aboriginal Year 9 students are achieving below the national minimum standard in writing (compared to 51.0% nationally).

Proportion of Year 9 students below the minimum standard in literacy and numeracy, in per cent, by selected characteristics, WA and Australia, 2017

Below national minimum standard

Reading

Writing

Numeracy

WA

7.3

16.2

3.6

Australia

8.4

18.4

4.3

LBOTE

WA

8.6

14.9

3.4

Australia

10.5

16.8

4.8

Non-LBOTE

WA

5.9

14.5

2.9

Australia

7.6

18.8

4.0

Aboriginal

WA

36.1

57.0

19.6

Australia

29.5

51.0

16.1

Non-Aboriginal

WA

5.1

13.2

2.3

Australia

7.1

16.5

3.5

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017 Note: Includes exempt students.

In summary, the improvements in reading and numeracy and the proportion of students achieving at or above the national minimum standard are important to acknowledge. However, there remains a significant proportion of WA Year 7 and Year 9 students who are not achieving the national minimum standards and increased effort is required to address this problem.

Endnotes

  1. Gonski D et al 2018, Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, p. viii.
  2. Ibid, p. x.
  3. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2016, National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy. Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy. National Report for 2016, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, p. v.
  4. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2016, How to interpret – Standards.
  5. Cassells R et al 2017, Educate Australia Fair?: Education Inequality in Australia, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, Focus on the States Series, Issue No 5, p. 37.
  6. Goss P and Sonnemann J 2016, Widening gaps: What NAPLAN tells us about student progress, Grattan Institute.
  7. Cassells R et al 2017, Educate Australia Fair?: Education Inequality in Australia, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, Focus on the States Series, Issue No 5.
Measure: Help with school work

Students require different levels and types of support to assist them with their learning and to enable their ongoing engagement with education. Teachers who provide help for learning are valued by students as it enables improved access to the curriculum, reduced anxiety and facilitates experiences of success.

Further, family processes and practices are strongly related to students’ academic, social, emotional and behavioural outcomes. Studies have shown that when families are interested in their child’s education and engaged with their school, student outcomes are improved.1,2

Help in the classroom

In the Commissioner’s 2016 School and Learning Consultation, 45 per cent of Year 7 to Year 12 students reported that they ‘usually’ get the help they need to do their school work. Just under 40 per cent answered ‘sometimes’ and 11 per cent of students said ‘hardly ever’ or ‘not at all’. The remainder – 5.6 per cent – answered that they do not need help.

Proportion of Year 7 to Year 12 WA students saying they get the help they need to do their school work

 

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report

Proportion of Year 7 to Year 12 WA students saying they get the help they need to do their school work, in per cent, by selected characteristics

Male

Female

Metropolitan

Regional

Non-Aboriginal

Aboriginal

All

Usually

45.3

46.5

45.8

45.7

46.5

34.1

45.7

Sometimes

36.8

38.6

37.7

38.5

37.2

47.7

37.9

Hardly ever

8.4

8.2

8.3

9.1

8.8

4.5

8.5

Not at all

1.8

2.6

3.0

0.5

2.2

2.3

2.2

I don't need help

7.7

4.1

5.3

6.3

5.3

11.4

5.6

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report

A significantly smaller proportion of Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal Year 7 to Year 12 students reported they ‘usually’ get the help they need (34.1% compared to 46.5%). Aboriginal students were also more likely to answer that they ‘don’t need help’.

When asked what type of help students need, the most commonly mentioned answer for both male and female Year 7 to Year 12 students was ‘more explanations’ followed by ‘more time to complete tasks or assignments’ and ‘talking to the teacher’.

Sixty-one per cent of Year 7 to Year 12 WA students agreed that at their school teachers go out of their way to help students and more than two-thirds (67.4%) agreed that teachers will find time to talk to students if the students need to talk to someone.

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,3 65 per cent of participating Year 7 to Year 12 students in WA government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘my teachers provide me with useful feedback about my school work’. Twenty two per cent neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, while 11 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

A significant decrease in the proportion of students agreeing/strongly agreeing with this statement was measured from Year 6 to Year 7 (84.0% of Year 6 students agreed compared to only 70.0% of Year 7 students). And, correspondingly, the proportion of students neither agreeing nor disagreeing increased (from 11.0% in Year 6 to 19.0% in Year 7). This proportion increased even more for Year 8 through to Year 10 students and then decreased again for students in Year 11 and Year 12.

These shifts are likely reflecting the different teaching practices and pedagogies employed in secondary school, however they give cause for concern that during the critical transition period from primary to secondary school a significant proportion of students feel as if they are not receiving the support they need for learning.

Parental engagement in children’s learning

Students in the School and Learning Consultation were asked a range of questions about their family’s involvement with school.

Parent involvement with school generally declines in secondary school, however, more than three-quarters of Year 7 to Year 12 students reported that someone in their family asks about their homework or school work either ‘often’ (49.6%) or ‘sometimes’ (27.2%). Around 20 per cent of students answered ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ with the remainder (5.0%) saying this was not required.

A total of 60 per cent of Year 7 to Year 12 students reported that someone in their family helps them with their homework ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’, while 10 per cent of students answered that they do not require help. The remaining 30 per cent of students said that they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ receive help with homework from someone in their family. These students did not select that help is ‘not required’ thereby indicating a possible need for help.

For further information refer to the CCYP School and Learning Consultation technical report.

Endnotes

  1. Emerson L et al 2012, Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY).
  2. Desforges C and Abouchaar A 2003, The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievement and Adjustment: A Literature Review, Research Report No 433, Department for Education and Skills UK.
  3. Source: Results from the National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools are also able to add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey will be conducted in 2018. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results.
Measure: Help with other issues

Schooling does not occur in isolation for children and young people. They bring with them the impact of their circumstances, shaped by economic, environmental and social factors. Emotional concerns have the potential to impact student thinking, learning, behaviours and relationships. Emotional support facilitates learning and social and emotional development, particularly if provided when children or young people are facing challenges.1 Support may be informal, through quality interpersonal relationships or through formal systems, such as school psychologists.

There is limited data on the number or proportion of students who receive support to respond to emotional or other non-school work issues at school.

In the School and Learning Consultation, 39 per cent of participating Year 7 to Year 12 students reported that their teachers care ‘a lot’ about them. This is a significant drop from 60 per cent in primary school. Just over one-half (52.3%) said ‘some’ and about one in 10 students (8.7%) said they feel that teachers and other school staff do not care about them ‘at all’.

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,2 48.6 per cent of participating Year 7 to Year 12 students in WA government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘I can talk to my teachers about my concerns’. Twenty-six per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, while 23.3 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

National School Opinion Survey, 2016: Proportion of Year 7 to Year 12 WA government school students responding to the statement: ‘I can talk to teachers about my concerns’

Source: National School Opinion Survey 2016, Custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA (unpublished).

These results represent a significant drop from primary school where 70 per cent of Year 5 and Year 6 students agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.

Endnotes

  1. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child 2015, Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper 13, Center for Child Development, Harvard University.
  2. Source: Results from the National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools are also able to add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey will be conducted in 2018. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results. 
Measure: Adults' expectations

Research suggests that teachers’ expectations of their students do not merely forecast student outcomes, but that they can also influence outcomes; that is, low (or high) expectations can modify student behaviour.1 In the School and Learning Consultation, participating students identified that teachers who support and encourage them to do their best and talk about their aspirations, increase students’ motivation to engage.2

Expectations of teachers and other school staff

In the 2016 School and Learning Consultation, approximately 78 per cent of Year 7 to Year 12 students felt that people at their school expected them to do well. Only four per cent of students felt that people at school did not expect them to do well, while 18 per cent were unsure.

Aboriginal students felt less confident than non-Aboriginal students about people at school expecting them to do well – one-quarter of Aboriginal Year 7 to Year 12 students felt ‘unsure’ about this.

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,3 89 per cent of participating Year 7 to 12 students in government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, ‘my teachers expect me to do my best’. Six per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, while three per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Parental expectations

Research shows that there is a strong relationship between parental aspirations and expectations and the child’s actual academic outcomes.4 There is now evidence suggesting that parental expectations for children’s academic achievement predict educational outcomes more than other measures of parental involvement, such as attending school events.5

In the School and Learning Consultation, high expectations from family members were generally seen as a positive influence for school and learning, however students were careful to temper comments with provisos such that expectations must be related to the student’s ability and interest, and facilitated by support from family members. Low expectations, negative comments or ‘put downs’ from family members were discouraging and hurtful for students and not helpful for how they felt about attending school and learning.6

Limited data exists on the expectations of parents for WA young people.

Endnotes

  1. Gershenson S and Papageorge N 2018, The power of teacher expectations: how racial bias hinders student attainment, Education Next, winter 2018, Vol 18, No 1.
  2. Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p 77.
  3. Source: Results from the National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools are also able to add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey will be conducted in 2018. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results. 
  4. Emerson L et al 2012, Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY).
  5. Child Trends Databank 2015, Parental Expectations for their Children’s Educational Attainment.
  6. Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p 104.
Measure: Opportunities to learn useful skills

Student perceptions of the relevance and value of education influences their engagement in school, learning and learning behaviours. Given these perceptions are partly framed by the curriculum and their learning experiences, listening to student insights into curriculum content are essential considerations for enhancing engagement with school and learning.

In the School and Learning Consultation, a little more than one-half of Year 7 to Year 12 students (54.0%) reported that what they are learning at school is ‘very valuable’ to them and their future, and one-third (35.1%) said that it is ‘somewhat valuable’ to them. However, one in 10 (9.4%) students in Year 7 to Year 12 said they feel that what they are learning at school is ‘not very valuable’ or ‘not valuable at all’ to their future.

Proportion of Year 7 to Year 12 WA students saying what they are learning at school is very valuable, somewhat valuable, not very valuable/not valuable at all or they are unsure

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report

There were no significant differences between male and female students, students in regional and metropolitan areas, and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.

However, male students in metropolitan areas were significantly more likely than male students in regional areas to say that what they are learning at school is ‘very valuable’ to them (61.8% compared to 45.7%). The same difference was not found within female students in metropolitan and regional areas (53.1% compared to 52.7%).

Students who felt that what they were learning was valuable to them cited the following reasons:

  • It will help me get a job (83.4%)
  • It will enable me to do more study/go to university (72.5%)
  • I enjoy learning (49.0%)

Those students who felt that what they were learning had little to no value to them cited the following reasons:

  • I have other interests (60.9%)
  • It will not help me get a job (48.4%)

Some of these students also described difficulties in seeing the relevance or connection between what they were learning at school and the ‘real world’ and their dreams and aspirations for the future.

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,1 66 per cent of participating Year 7 to Year 12 students in WA government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, ‘my school gives me opportunities to do interesting things’. Nineteen per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, while 13 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

There was little difference between responses of male and female Years 5 to 12 students or across geographic locations. Aboriginal Year 5 to Year 12 students were less likely to respond with agreed or strongly agreed than non-Aboriginal Year 5 to Year 12 students (67.0% compared to 73.0%).

This data item has only limited relevance for this measure as ‘interesting things’ could be interpreted very differently by different young people and these ‘things’ may or may not develop useful skills and knowledge.

Endnotes

  1. Source: Results from the National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools are also able to add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey will be conducted in 2018. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results.
Young people in care

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) studied the academic performance of children and young people in care across Australia, by linking the data from the Child Protection National Minimum Data Set (CP NMDS) and the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). Among the study population, National Minimum Standard achievement rates varied across the five assessment domains (reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy). Rate ranges were 56 to 75 per cent for Year 7, and 44 to 69 per cent for Year 9 students.1 This data was not disaggregated by state.

The WA Department of Communities report that only 66.1 per cent of all students in care are meeting the NAPLAN benchmarks. Aboriginal students are achieving this benchmark at a lower rate (55.6%) than non-Aboriginal students (76.0%).2

These achievement rates are significant lower than the average for other students in Australia. However, as AIHW note, the academic achievement of children and young people in care is likely to be affected by complex personal histories and multiple aspects of disadvantage (including poverty, maltreatment, family dysfunction and instability in care and schooling).3 Nevertheless, when removing a child from their family and placing them into care it is critical that their lifetime outcomes are improved as a result, and educational achievement is a key component of this.

CREATE Foundation conducted a survey of Australian children in care in 2013 which found that 29.7 per cent of students living in care would like more help with their school work and 24.6 per cent would like more help with their homework. Of those receiving assistance with their homework, 32.2 per cent were receiving that assistance from their carer and 19.7 per cent from a teacher’s aide.This survey was not conducted in WA and the data is not available by age group.

Other Australian research suggests that support from carers and their caseworkers most strongly predicted school engagement for children in care.5 This research also found that children in care reported lower aspirations for themselves and saw their parents as having lower aspirations for them.6

Young people in care experience high vulnerability and educational risk and there must be a continued focus on improving their wellbeing.

Endnotes

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2015, Educational outcomes for children in care: Linking 2013 child protection and NAPLAN data, Cat No CWS 54, AIHW, p. 7.
  2. WA Department for Child Protection and Family Support 2016, Outcomes framework for children in out-of-home care in Western Australia: 2015-2016 Baseline Indicator Report, Department for Child Protection and Family Support.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2015, Educational outcomes for children in care: Linking 2013 child protection and NAPLAN data, Cat No CWS 54, AIHW.
  4. McDowall JJ 2013, Experiencing out-of-home care in Australia: The views of children and young people (CREATE Report Card 2013), CREATE Foundation, Sydney, p. 62. Note: The initial response rate to this survey was low (53.6%) therefore the data was supplemented with other data held by Create Foundation. While the final number of participants (1,069) was considered a reasonable sample size, there were insufficient respondents to allow for categorical variables such as sex, age, culture and placement type.
  5. Tilbury C et al 2014, Making a connection: school engagement of young people in care, Child & Family Social Work, Vol 19 No 4, pp. 455-466.
  6. Ibid, p. 463.
Young people with disability

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires that children with disability shall be given the assistance required to participate effectively in education and training and to be prepared for employment conducive to the child’s individual development.1

It is also a national requirement under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students. A key aspect of the standards is that education providers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that a student with disability has comparable opportunities and choices with those offered to students without disability.2

Reasonable adjustments may include changes to the way that teaching and learning is provided, changes to the classroom or school environment, the way that students’ progress and achievements are assessed and reported to parents, the provision of personal care and planning to meet individual needs, as well as professional learning for teachers and support staff.

The Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education provides a detailed snapshot of students receiving an adjustment for disability across Australia.3 This collection is still in the early stages of implementation and the data cannot be compared across states, however the data for WA shows that in 2017, one in five WA students received an adjustment for disability.

Proportion of WA students receiving an adjustment for disability by category of disability, in per cent, 2016 and 2017

2016

2017

Cognitive

10.1

11.8

Physical

4.5

5.0

Sensory

0.8

0.8

Social-emotional

2.2

2.9

All categories of disability

17.6

20.5

Source: Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education Council, 2016 and 2017 - data on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability

Disaggregation of this data by age, geographic location or Aboriginal status is not available.

While the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education provides information on the number of children and young people receiving adjustments for disability, it does not report on the educational outcomes or experiences of students with disability.  

The Senate Inquiry into the education system for children with disability found that there were low or, in some cases, no expectations of students with disabilities. That is, educators and students often fail to recognise students with disabilities as capable of learning to their full potential.4

Similar to children without disability, parental expectations of children with disability have also been shown to have a significant, yet sometimes detrimental, influence on children’s academic outcomes. This is partly due to the disability ‘label’ which has a range of negative implications, particularly on children’s self-concept which influences social and academic outcomes.5

Measuring educational outcomes for children and young people with disability and/or long-term health issues is a significant challenge.6 Experts recommend that when using standardised testing (such as NAPLAN), an accommodated or alternative assessment is available for children and young people with special educational needs.7 This is not currently available within NAPLAN, and while NAPLAN is a standardised process for all students to complete, evidence suggests that children and young people with disability often do not participate.8

For those students who are participating in the NAPLAN assessments, ACARA does not disaggregate the results to report specifically on the results of children and young people with disability. There is therefore limited ability to measure whether current policies and practices are supporting the educational progress of students with disability. 

Further data and research on the educational outcomes and experiences of WA children and young people with disability is needed.

Endnotes

  1. Article 23, United Nations 1989, Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner.
  2. Department of Education and Training, Disability Standards for Education 2005 Fact Sheet, Australian Government.
  3. Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education Council, 2016 emergent data on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability.
  4. Education and Employment References Committee, 2016, Access to real learning: the impact of policy, funding and culture on students with disability, Australian Government.
  5. McCoy S et al 2016, The role of parental expectations in understanding social and academic well-being among children with disabilities in Ireland, European Journal of Special Needs Education, Vol 31, No 4, pp. 535-552.
  6. Mitchell D 2010, Education that fits: Review of international trends in the education of students with special educational needs, July 2010, University of Canterbury.
  7. Douglas G et al 2012, Measuring Educational Engagement, Progress and Outcomes for Children with Special Educational Needs: A Review, Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs (DISN), School of Education, University of Birmingham.
  8. The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) 2013, Inclusive Education for Students with Disability: A review of the best evidence in relation to theory and practice, ARACY, p. 29.
Policy implications

Supporting student engagement and academic achievement is important. There must be an ongoing commitment to improving the achievement of students at or below the national minimum standard. Policy and practice must focus on addressing the complex barriers that impede our most vulnerable children throughout their school years.1

Schools can employ a number of approaches to support students’ academic achievement and engagement in school. To encourage attendance and improve educational outcomes for all children and young people, schools need to ensure a welcoming, supportive and inclusive environment for students and their families. Targeted teaching that is tailored to each student’s capability and level is required to reduce the significant achievement gap that exists between high achieving and low achieving students. This will ensure high achieving students are stretched and low achieving students are supported.2 This aligns with the recommendations of David Gonski and colleagues in their review of student achievement and school performance.3

Students’ motivation and engagement improves when teachers and staff foster a school and classroom environment which supports learning and emotional development. For more information, refer to the Commissioner for Children and Young People School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report.

Teachers and schools serving disadvantaged communities need sufficient resources to implement initiatives to help them build capacity. On the ground initiatives which support disadvantaged communities can include: attracting high-performing teachers and principals, instigating mentoring programs for teachers, employing a teacher with expertise in Aboriginal student learning outcomes, and increased monitoring of school performance.4

Parental engagement is also a key part of promoting and improving children’s learning capabilities and wellbeing. Refer to the Commissioner’s resource: How can you help your child to be engaged in school and learning for more information for parents, carers and family. 

Research suggests that a necessary component of improving educational and lifetime outcomes for disengaged students is to increase the accessibility of alternative pathways, such as vocational education and training.5,6 These pathways need to be diverse and flexible so that they attract and retain students. These programs do not work in isolation, coordinated support for disengaging students is also critical. Students will often have many support needs and will require a range of support systems, not just to learn, but also in the personal arena to support their wellbeing more broadly.7

For students in care, raising educational aspirations is critical. Research suggests that for young people in care having a specific end-goal of education in mind can assist students to feel a sense of purpose and connection with their school environment. This will provide students with a reason to invest time and effort in learning and achieving, and foster engagement.8

Data gaps

Robust data on the academic achievement of young people with disability is needed; without this it is difficult to assess whether young people with disability are being provided with consistent and equitable access to education and support and to allow comparisons with young people without disability.

Endnotes

  1. Cassells R et al 2017, Educate Australia Fair?: Education Inequality in Australia, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, Focus on the States Series, Issue No 5.
  2. Goss P and Sonnemann J 2016, Widening gaps: What NAPLAN tells us about student progress, Grattan Institute.
  3. Gonski D et al 2018, Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, Commonwealth of Australia, p. x.
  4. Centre for International Research on Education Systems 2015, Low SES School Communities National Partnership: Evaluation of staffing, management and accountability initiatives, Victoria University, pp. 8-11.
  5. Hancock KJ and Zubrick SR 2015, Children and young people at risk of disengagement from school, prepared by Telethon Kids Institute for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p. 61
  6. Stone C 2012, Valuing Skills: Why Vocational Training Matters, Occasional Paper 24, Centre for Policy Development.
  7. Hancock KJ and Zubrick SR 2015, Children and young people at risk of disengagement from school, prepared by Telethon Kids Institute for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p. 61.
  8. Tilbury C et al 2014, Making a connection: school engagement of young people in care, Child & Family Social Work, Vol 19, pp. 455-466.
Further resources

For more information on educational achievement refer to the following resources: